With the Gilmore preselection looming, federal treasurer Scott Morrison joined the cheer squad led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to back sitting member Ann Sudmalis.
On Thursday at Nowra, Mr Morrison and Mrs Sudmalis stood arm in arm, as the treasurer affirmed his loyalty.
“We respect the grassroots processes but at the end of the day, Ann has demonstrated she’s a good member down here,” Mr Morrison said.
“She has won this seat in tough contest, if it was not for Ann, Bill Shorten would now be prime minister.
“Our party members carry a big responsibility.”
It is understood real estate agent Grant Schultz will contest for preselection.
“It would be a bad thing for the government if Ann Sudmalis was replaced by any other candidate,” Mr Morrison said.
Later in the conference, he denied interfering with the preselection, and deflected a question about liberal party rumblings, “are senior liberal party members saying, ‘don’t sack a woman?’”
“It’s never a good idea for Canberra to tell QLD what to do, I’m just here to support Ann,” he said.
“Ann has been such a tremendous, hard-working local member here.”
Mrs Sudmalis refused to discuss her reportedly “toxic relationship” with Kiama MP Gareth Ward, which made national news on Thursday morning, but Mr Morrison was happy to chime in.
“The best example of state and federal governments working together is right behind us, the bridge,” Mr Morrison said.
The pair made a quick exit, as South Coast Labour Council protesters hijacked the press conference, and staffers were forced to act as bodyguards, shuffling them out of earshot.